On May 3, 2003 there was a news report in all major newspapers of the region that there was a bloody dacoity in a religious place in village Seonk in Kharar Tehsil, District Ropar on May 2, 2003 at about 2.15 a.m. Some followers of Sant Sri Asa Ram Ashram informed the organisation that police investigation is not being done properly and they sought legal help from our organisation. A team was constituted by the President comprising of Arunjeev Singh Walia, Tejinder Singh Sudan, O.P.Dabla, P.K.S.Gill, Arvind Sandhu, Arvind Thakur and Yadvinder Singh Dhillon and entrusted the job to find out whether there had been any violation of human rights of the people or not and whether the police is
properly investigating the crime or not.
The team visited Sant Sri Asa Ram Ashram, situated in village Seonk, Tehsil Kharar, District Ropar.The Ashram is situated in an isolated place on the outskirts of Chandigarh and scattered over more than thirteen acres of land. There is a large open space at the entrance and there is a big pandal(shed) where there is proper lighting arrangement. Moreover, the podium(Vyas Peeth) installed at the centre of the pandal(shed) carries permanent lighting as the photograph of the Sant Asa Ram ji has been kept. There is another small building near the pandal where the office of the administrator is situated and an almirah is also kept in the bed room of the Administrator of the Ashram where all the valuable items are kept under lock and key.
The team inspected the pandal where five followers of the Sant Asa Ram were attacked and seriously injured and also the room where the dacoits broke open the almirah and looted the cash and other valuables.
1.Sub-Inspector Palwinder Singh Dhillon, Incharge, Police Post Mullanpur Garibdas.
2.Assistant Sub-Inspector Bawa Singh, Police Post Mullanpur Garibdas.
3.Krishna Bhai, Manager cum Administrator, Sant Sri Asa Ram Ashram, village Seonk
4.Dinesh Bhai, Eye-witness.
5.KG.Gupta, Sanchalak of Sant Sri Asa Ram Ashram, Delhi.
6.Other witnesses (identity kept confidential).
The event wise narration of facts were given by Krishna Bhai, the Manager-cum-Administrator of the Ashram. As per his statement, he was sleeping in his bed room as usual and the wooden door was open and the door with iron mesh was bolted from inside. Just adjoining the door there is a window whose glass panes were open but iron mesh panes were bolted from inside. At about 2.15 a.m. he heard some noise of putting some hard substance on the table outside his room by somebody. He got up and saw shadows of some persons outside. He loudly called his colleague who was sleeping in the next room. But he did not hear his voice but heard the noise of some person who asked him to keep quite and not raise his voice. This voice was in Hindi. He got suspicious and immediately bolted the wooden door. After few minutes he heard the noise of some persons beating the iron mesh door of his room from outside. The glass window panes of the room were also broken by the assailants. Feeling afraid, Krishna Bhai went to the adjoining room and locked him in that room and made a phone call to the police. He then heard the noise of the assailants from his bed room and also the noise of beating the almirah in which the money of the Ashram was lying. Then he heard the screams of one inmate of the Ashram from the pandal. He could not see the faces of any of the assailants due to darkness, but heard the voices which were in mixed Hindi and Punjabi. According to him,within few minutes, a phone call came from the Incharge of the Police Post Mullanpur Garibdas that they have reached outside the Ashram and sought direction for coming to the place of incident. He guided them to come to the building where he was hiding. At that time, the dacoits were still inside the next room and their voices were heard by Krishna Bhai.Thereafter few minutes later, he heard his colleague talking with a policeman and then he came outside the room and informed the policemen about the incident. Another eye-witness, a handicapped person, who was sleeping in the next room stated that he heard some noise outside at about 2.30 a.m. and when he came outside, he was attacked on his neck by a wooden baton Thereafter few assailants threatened him not to raise his voice and tied his hands at his back and put him on one side of the Veranda. As per his description, the assailants were looking like migrant
labourers wearing dhoti, Baniyan etc and were of mediocre height and physique. They were speaking Hindi.
According to Krishna Bhai, the policemen accompanied him to the nearby Pandal where five disciples were lying injured. Blood was scattered around the places where the injured persons were lying and there were visible foot marks and finger prints on the spot. The police also found a sword( grass cutter
measuring 2 ½ feet long) stained with blood from outside the room where the cash and valuables were taken away.
As per Investigating Officer, Sub-Inspector Palwinder Singh Dhillon, when he received the message about the robbery from Police Control Room, Chandigarh he immediately rushed to the spot and in between rang the manager of the Ashram assuring him of immediate action. When he reached the Ashram in a Maruti Car alongwith four-five persons, they were equipped with weapons and torches. There was a cover of darkness all around and the police team was unable to find the place of occurrence. He then rang the Manager of the Ashram to find out the exact place to come. Then they entered the Ashram and saw some injured person lying in the Pandal. There they saw five persons lying unconscious in a pool of blood and with the help of his fellow policemen, he tried to find out if they
were conscious or not. Then he called the Manager of the Ashram and threafter the driver of the Van of the Ashram was called and the injured were put in the van of the Ashram and taken to PGI. Thereafter a private photographer was called and statements of the witnesses were recorded and according to him it was an act of forcible theft.The police also took into possession the sword and the golak with them. According to him,it is a clue less case.
As per the witnesses statements, the policemen themselves picked up the blood stained sword from the place of occurrence and without taking any finger prints from the sword, sealed it and sent it to the police station. Further it also came into evidence that a head constable himself took the blood samples from the Shed in a polythene carry bag and it did not call the experts from CFSL laboratory and thereafter washed off the pool of blood scattered on the floor of the Shed. The cash box of the Ashram from where the cash was stolen has also been taken into possession by the police. Interestingly, the statement of main eye-witness, Dinesh Bhai who saw the assailants have not been examined by the Investigating Officer till date. Ironically, the policemen themselves put all the material into the room which was thrown outside by the assailants, thereby causing loss of valuable evidence. It has also been confirmed that on the ill-fated night there was sufficient light in the Shed where the injured were lying.
After considering the statements of the witnesses and taking account of the evidence, the team has come to the following findings:-
1. The gruesome incident in the Ashram has left a sence of insecurity and fear among the devotees and the inmates of the Ashram and this incident could be the result of lack of proper security checks by the local police. The people are still living in terror.
2. The role of the Incharge of Police Station,Mullanpur Garibdas who reached the Ashram when the assailants were inside is questionable. He deliberately did not make any efforts to chase the culprits or
even fire at them or in the air.
3. The police complicity in the escape of the culprits and clueless incident is apparent from the facts of the case. The police officials failed to show their competence and vigility in properly investigating the crime. The picking up of the sword from the spot without taking any finger prints from the handle and other material articles which were thrown by the assailants and putting those articles inside the room and further washing off the pool of blood from the shed by the policemen raises a question mark on their integrity and competence to properly discharge their duty while handling a henious crime like the present one.
4. The sections of offences framed by the police in the First Information Report are certainly insufficient and too lenient to match the gravity of the offence. It is not a case of theft or causing grievous hurt while committing house-tresspass, as given by the police in its F.I.R. It is a henious crime of attempt to murder and commission of dacoity with deadly weapons resulting in the serious injuries on the person of injured.
5. It is not a blind case as stated by the police, but there are sufficient clues which could lead to the indentification of the culprits and their connection with the crime. In the given facts and evidence available, it appears to be the handiwork of some persons who had pre-information and good knowledge of the sorroundings of the Ashram.
1. The organisation recommends that the Investigation into such a henious crime should have been entrusted to a competent and qualified police officer of the higher rank. The handling of the case by S.I.Palwinder Singh has resulted in destruction of vital evidence and clues which could lead to the arrest of the culprits and in order to fill up these losses the investigation should be transferred to an officer of the rank of Superintendent of Police.
2. The organisation also recommends strict action in accordance with law against those police officials who have destroyed vital and material evidence connected with the crime.
3. The organisation also recommends that in order to instil confidence and safety in the minds of the people of the Ashram as well as the area, there should be a permanent police post as well as regular patrolling by the police.
4. It is also recommended that security should be beefed up in all religious places as these places are considered as soft targets of the criminals due to lack of adequate security.
5. It is also recommended that keeping in view the repeated incidents of looting and dacoity in the district Ropar, it must ensure effective and proper training and performance by the police in handling such type of serious cases involving human rights of the citizens. Repeated incidents of such kinds have created a sense of fear and insecurity in the minds of the people which requires serious attention of the senior police officials.
May 4, 2003